Returning to the Self: The Importance of Solitude

“The psyches and souls of women also have their own cycles and seasons of doing and solitude, running and staying, being involved and being removed, questing and resting, creating and incubating, being of the world and returning to the soul place.” Clarissa Pinkola Estés

     I never understood the concept of intuition until it was all I had left to rely on. I can recount several times that it relayed something to me, which challenged the dialogue in my head. Call it the gut, the heart, the inner voice; that intuitive sense is louder than any spoken word.

     I am formerly guilty of lingering in cycles that did not serve me long passed their expirations. I have clung to spoiled friendships, toxic environments, and many other unnecessary burdens that strayed from my hopes. Sometimes, it is safer to remain in stagnation than to take a leap into the unknown.

     We often ignore opportunities to peacefully remove ourselves from drawn out situations, no matter how plentiful they are presented to us. Nonetheless, life tends to force blockages off of a path. Even when we go out kicking and screaming, we find ourselves back at a seeming starting point: isolation.

     We are born into this world alone, and we leave the very same. We take ourselves everywhere we go. Even so, it is taught from a young age that remoteness is a bad thing. A negative view towards being alone is commonly generated through negative reinforcement in childhood, specifically being put in “time out”. Society often frowns upon the single, wallflowers, loners, and the independent. These detrimental instillations can result in the avoidance of solitude.   

     There are a few types of solitude. To find yourself alone, with no choice, can be incredibly sad and overwhelming. For example, an event can produce a domino effect, causing your most treasured connections to go awry. When we wind up without means of escape and distraction, the consequences can entail feeling lonely and unwanted. Other times, a series of events or circumstances may cause an individual to prefer being apart, which is arguably more sorrowful. The superior version, in my opinion, is the kind of isolation one makes time for, and looks forward to. There is solace to be found in singledom, as well as a grounding to be had.

     As a young girl, I endured a complicated dynamic. At school and in sports, I had many friends. I would actively play and communicate with them for hours on end. When I went home, I assumed the role of the outcast. I grew up with six other siblings. In recurrent, chaotic times, I would often retreat to nature, taking walks in the forest or climbing trees. On weather-preventing days, I explored the many rooms of my childhood home, inventing my entertainment as I went on. I preferred to spend the majority of my time alone, as I consistently felt misunderstood.

     I have always been an emotional individual. The reactions my feelings would receive trained me to believe it was an unwanted trait. As a result of feeling like a burden, I chose to spend my time at home in solitude, which aided in the cultivation of my imagination and creativity. In doing so, I was unknowingly teaching myself how to harness my own power—a tool that exists within each of us.

     As I grew up, I gradually lost touch with my ability to return to myself. I moved to a new state, to live with only my father, at fifteen years old. You can imagine how difficult of a transition it was. In retrospect, I developed a need to feel like I belonged to something. I suppose I felt useless without acknowledgement and validation from exterior sources. Therefore, I often found myself in forced connections that simply were not aligned for me. I assumed roles that strayed from my true identity. I ignored the inner voice nudging me to seek better, and often dodged being alone at all. I ended up misplacing much of my original personality. Up until about a year ago, I remained in the same pattern.

     One day, I had enough. I assessed my satisfaction with my life, and realized how drained I felt from repeatedly channeling my energy into people, places, and general situations that did not fit me. I made an effort to consider what the common denominator was. I had spent so much time attempting to cater to certain things, without considering how they should adapt to me. I had lost touch with the little girl who used to go barefoot and talk to the flowers. Despite always existing as Abigale, I had no true, confident idea of who I was at all.

     As change is not a fluid process, the epiphany still took some time to settle into my life. Similar patterns would continue to appear on my path. With each experience, the craving for singledom was ever present in the back of my mind. For too long, I knew I needed to carve the time out to deliberately spend most of my time alone. Many areas of my life deserved improved attention; it was time to heal. I desperately desired to rediscover the girl I once was in order to figure out who I really am. I knew she remained somewhere within me, and seeking her out was a one-woman-job.

     Apprehensive to the potentially negative consequences of choosing aloneness, I entertained many distractions. I used social media, faulty, yet fun friendships, romance, and other addictions as my escapes. With each upset in my system, the voice of my inner child grew increasingly louder. I inevitably found myself to be at the final straw. When I arrived at this breaking point, I knew that I no longer had a choice; I had to take a time out. They say the moment you decide you want better for yourself is the moment you never look back. Quite honestly, I never understood the concept until the instance arrived.

     Unfortunately, this self-discovery was accompanied with loss. I knew that several relationships and situations had to fall away to obtain fulfillment. I was completely aware, but I was not prepared. I was faced with many ultimatums of the same nature: cling to a counterproductive connection, or face the first sting of freedom.

     For the first time in a long time, I chose exactly what I needed, rather than another’s preference. And damn, did it feel good. But it also stung a little. Loss in any form is not a fun feeling. I do not think anything can really prepare you for change. Part of life is learning how to brace yourself for storms, simply experiencing them, and then interpreting them in the aftermath.

     Once I let go, everything began to fall into place. Although timing is everything, I honestly wish I had done it sooner. Even so, I learned an especially important lesson, which I will continue to implement in all areas of my life: Everything is scarier in thought. Once I said, “fuck it”, I simply allowed it to happen. Without the need for control, life unravels much more swimmingly. Who would have thought?

     I have also discovered that not everything is meant to stay with us forever. This used to dispirit me, but now I say, “thank goodness!” The world is so vast, with a plethora of diverse experiences, people, and places to immerse ourselves in. Alike to the seasons, there are different things for varying times in life. It is beautifully normal to spend time alone, nurturing our very existence, while seeking our truest desires. Patience makes enjoying newfound treasures all the more worthwhile.

     There are plenty of occasions in this expedition that require arduous choices to be made. Many involve unspecified ramifications. The inner knowing each and everyone of us possesses is a key in navigation. In learning how to surrender to the beat of our individual, unique, perfectly crafted drums, the journey may become a little more serene.

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